How are you feeling? And I mean, actually feeling? I have been worried about you. I notice when other people ask you always respond with, “I’m fine,” yet it seems like there’s something else going on. You see, my fear is that for the past two years or, so we have been in survival mode, and I’m worried you feel stuck in it.
Maybe you think I’m overthinking things, and I might be. However, I just wanted to ask you a few questions just to be safe:
- Are you constantly tired or fatigued?
- Do you wake up anxious or stressed?
- Are you reactive, sometimes even overreactive, to even “small” situations?
- Do you still feel passionate about the things you used to, or at least have the energy to make time for them?
- Are you excited for tomorrow, or just concerned with making it through today?
If any of these questions resonated with you, then it’s very likely you are struggling to break-out of survival mode. And I think this is completely reasonable. The past two years have left us with nothing to do but survive. So, as begin returning to some sense of normalcy (which I urge you to do safely), we have to simultaneously navigate living again, rather than simply surviving.
Unfortunately, this isn’t something that can occur over night, and it actually may look nothing like it used to for your pre-pandemic. Although we are transitioning back into previous norms, to some extent, we carry an immense amount of trauma now, or even more than we did before. This means that our new definition of living has to hold space for both: prioritizing fun and healing.
Part of this is to move slowly. Yes, for the most part, we can return to doing the things we loved before. However, this doesn’t mean we need to, or least that we need to as often. Pre-pandemic Sydney loved going out to dinner or catching a movie with friends. Post pandemic Sydney barely has the emotional or mental capacity to spend time with friends for more than an hour at a time. This means that living my best life is no longer going out every other night of the week.
Instead, it’s doing something one or two nights a week with friends (because too much time alone is also bad for my mental health), dedicating a night a week to loved ones, finding at least one night to practice my favorite self-care items, and then giving myself permission to just focus on doing the bare minimum and finding some time for quiet on other nights. Will there be a day when I have the emotional capacity and going out a few nights a week feels reasonable? Maybe, but I’m not going to pressure myself in the meantime.
If you are still in survival mode (which I am sure we all are), the best thing you can do is make small steps to reconnecting with what brings you joy, while also prioritizing what brings you peace. Right now, we all need to meet ourselves where we are. Lowering our expectations allows us the opportunity to heal and find a new normal that is supportive of us. It’s okay to mourn how things once were and find something more sustainable and just as great as you move forward.